Highlights of Prince George’s County school plan

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) signed a bill this week that gives County Executive Rushern L. Baker III more authority to govern the struggling Prince George’s County school system.

Baker (D) had sought a complete overhaul of the state’s second-largest school system, one that would have put him in charge of the new superintendent and the system’s $1.7 billion budget.

He said deficiencies in public education were hindering the county’s ability to draw businesses and new residents, and argued that one person — the county executive — should be held responsible for schools.

State lawmakers approved a compromise bill that allows Baker to select the superintendent, appoint three members to the school board and name the board’s chair and vice chair. The school board makes final decisions on the budget.

The change comes as the school system, which has experienced rapid leadership turnover, searches for its sixth superintendent in 10 years. William R. Hite Jr., the former superintendent, resigned last year to become the Philadelphia schools chief.

Here are some of the other highlights of the schools bill, which goes into effect on June 1.

- The county executive must appoint one board member with education experience; one member with business, finance or higher education experience; and one member with management experience in business, nonprofit or government work.

- The County Council must appoint one board member who is a parent with a child in the school system.

- New appointees to the board will serve four-year, staggered terms.

- The board chair and vice chair will serve two-year terms.

- The vice chair must be selected from among the elected members.

- The county executive will fill vacancies on the board. The County Council needs a two-thirds vote to reject a nominee.

- The schools superintendent will be known as the chief executive officer of the system.

- A three-member search committee will recommend three potential schools CEOs to the county executive.

- The search committee must include a member of the state Board of Education, selected by the state superintendent, and two county residents, selected by O’Malley.

- The school board chair will negotiate the CEO’s four-year contract.

- The CEO’s role is to manage day-to-day school system operations, including the management of activities related to administration, instructional salaries and student transportation.

- The CEO sets salaries of executive staff, and provides oversight of the fiscal affairs of the school system. The CEO will hire a chief financial officer, a chief academic officer, a chief of staff, a board liaison and any other necessary executive staff.

- The board can implement a policy or contradict the day-to-day management and oversight of fiscal affairs of the CEO unless it two-thirds of the members vote to do so.

- The law allows Baker to require CEO to attend cabinet meetings.

- The school board’s role is to improve student achievement and increase community engagement with public schools.

- The school board is responsible for setting school boundaries

- The CEO responsible for school consolidations.

- A study of school use and recommendations for school boundaries and consolidations must be submitted to the CEO, school board, county executive and County Council by Dec. 1, 2014

- The CEO will enter into a memorandum of understanding with universities and colleges inside and outside the county to provide policy analysis and advice.

- An interim report on the schools by the county executive, schools CEO and school board is due to state lawmakers by Dec. 31, 2013, and a final report is due on Dec. 31, 2017.

- Unless the General Assembly acts in the 2018 session, the bill will remain law

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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